The Saracen’s Head’s Norfolk recipes

Saracen's Head, Wolterton (photo: Phil Morley)

Saracen's Head, Wolterton (photo: Phil Morley) - Credit: Archant

Check out the Saracen’s Head’s recipes for roast cannon of Wolterton lamb with potatoes, peas and mint; and a lemon tart to be paired with local rhubarb

Saracen's Head, Wolterton (photo: Phil Morley)

Saracen's Head, Wolterton (photo: Phil Morley) - Credit: Archant

Step inside The Saracen’s Head and you’ll soon discover that you are sharing in a daily celebration of Norfolk produce.

A map of ‘Our Local Larder’ in the entrance hall of this rural inn shows the sheer variety of ingredients grown, caught and gathered on the doorstep.

Eels caught at Heacham and smoked at Brancaster jostle for place with cheese from Wighton and Little Barningham, flour from Letheringsett and shiitake mushrooms from Little London.

Even potatoes are sourced with care, head chef Mark Sayers buying from Tony Bambridge, who grows 16 varieties in the sandy loam soils of Wood Farm in Marsham, a few miles south of The Saracen’s Head.

Saracen's Head, Wolterton

Saracen's Head, Wolterton - Credit: Archant

“The humble potato is an extraordinary and remarkable vegetable,” says Tony. “Compared with other crops, it comes on a long journey before reaching the dinner table: from sprout to mini-tuber, pre-basic seed takes six to nine years of successive planting, harvesting and storing to develop. Only then is it ready to harvest.”

Tony’s wife, Emily, supplies beef from her herd of Lincoln Red cattle, grazed on water meadows at nearby Blickling. Their horseradish also appears on The Saracen’s Head menu (now only grown on a small scale for artisan condiment manufacturers; they used to cultivate it in large quantities for Colman’s).

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In the tiny kitchen Mark is preparing dauphinoise potatoes, enhanced with subtly-flavoured wild garlic gathered from the local woods by neighbour – and keen forager – Mary Wilcox. Mark builds up and seasons layers of sliced potatoes, onions and shredded wild garlic before pouring in double cream, fresh from Pointens Dairy in nearby Stody, and baking it to a golden, bubbling unctuousness.

A favourite from Mark’s classical English and French training, the dish is a great partner for white and red meats. “Potatoes may be a staple food but there’s far more to them than that: they are an integral part of a dish.

“So we might have Pink Fir Apple for a summer salad, Charlotte boiled and sautéed with a sprinkling of sea salt with Tony’s beef, and Desirée for a smooth and tasty mash with herb-crusted local cod or braised pork belly in winter. As we use them all the time, it’s important to have different varieties and to use them in a variety of ways.”

The rest of the menu is wedded to the nearby offerings; the local catch dictates what fish is on the day’s menu. It might be sea bass or mackerel caught in the waters off Mundesley, crabs and lobsters landed at Overstrand or fresh mussels from Brancaster.

Meat is supplied by traditional butcher, Crawford White of G F White in nearby Aylsham, and fruit and vegetables come from farms, gardens, orchards and hedgerows on the doorstep.

“There’s a fruit farm nearby that grows five varieties of plum,” says Mark, “so we’ll serve a terrine with plum chutney, pork with roast plums, a plum and almond tart. Rhubarb is another great local ingredient: when it’s plentiful, I might make a rhubarb and apple chutney, bake salmon with rhubarb, white wine, parsley and cream – the tartness of the rhubarb cuts through the oiliness of the salmon – or a rhubarb and apple crumble.”


Roast cannon of Wolterton lamb, wild garlic dauphinoise potatoes, peas and mint, Madeira jus

A delicious and popular dish of simple flavours and textures to showcase great Norfolk potatoes and local lamb reared on the nearby estate parkland. Prepare the potatoes, the peas and the sauce at the same time before cooking the lamb. You can either keep them warm, covered somewhere hot or allow them to cool and refrigerate ahead of time, before reheating.

(Serves 4)

Potato dauphinoise

2 large potatoes (Maris Piper)

2 tbsp wild garlic leaves, chopped

400ml double cream

Pre-heat the oven to 170c.

Peel and slice the potatoes very thinly, layer in an ovenproof dish, adding garlic and seasoning in between.

Warm the cream and pour all over the top surface.

Bake for 170c until tender and golden.

Score through with a knife into portions.

Madeira sauce

1 onion, chopped

Good rapeseed oil

1 bay leaf 1 garlic clove

100ml rich Madeira

300ml lamb stock

300ml chicken stock

Cook the onion, bay leaf and garlic in a hot sauté pan with a drizzle of oil over a low-medium heat, stirring until softened and lightly golden.

Remove from the hob, add the Madeira, return to a medium heat and bring to a simmer.

Add the two stocks, allow to boil well and reduce by two-thirds.

Remove from heat before sieving and keep warm.

Pea purée

300g peas or petits pois, shelled or defrosted

Three large mint sprigs, leaves only

Blanch the peas with the mint in boiling water until tender. Drain and carefully blend in a food processor until a thick purée. Add some butter if particularly stodgy.

To serve

600g lamb loin in four portions

1 tbsp thyme and rosemary, chopped

Pre-heat the oven to 200c. Ensure the potato, peas and sauce will be piping hot by reheating as required. Meanwhile lightly oil and season the lamb before rolling in the herbs.

Take a very hot ovenproof sauté pan, add a drizzle of oil, seal the lamb on each side and then bake for 10 minutes. Remove to somewhere warm and allow to rest for five minutes. Carve the lamb and plate up with the potatoes, peas and sauce.


Lemon tart

This simple classic is delicious paired with local soft fruits such as pink rhubarb or berries. Bake the pastry as you make the filling.

(Serves 6+)

250g plain flour

125g unsalted butter,

cubed 90g caster sugar

1 egg

7 whole eggs

2 egg yolks

400g caster sugar

5 lemons, juice only

250ml double cream

In a food processor, pulse the flour and butter into breadcrumbs. Add the sugar, egg and 1 tablespoon of cold water and just bring together into a dough. Remove and wrap in clingfilm, before refrigerating for 30 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 175c. Roll out the pastry and line an approx 23cm tart tin. Blind-bake with parchment and baking beans for 12-15 minutes.

Remove the parchment and beans carefully, reduce temperature to 160c and continue to bake until lightly golden and crisp, about 10 minutes.

Then turn your oven down to 120c.

As the pastry bakes, in a food mixer, make the filling by whisking the whole eggs and yolks with the sugar until incorporated, followed by the lemon juice and then the cream. Mix until well combined.

Pour the filling into the hot pastry case and bake for 30 minutes or until just set. Remove and serve at room temperature.


Norfolk Table; One County, Twenty Chefs, by Tessa Allingham and Glyn Williams, is priced at £19.95 and available from Jarrold of Norwich book department and fine food retailers as well as the 20 featured reestaurants

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